Family Sues New Haven Over Fatal, Illegal Rooming House Fire

One person died in a fire in New Haven, Connecticut where code violations were found months earlier.
(City of New Haven)

Inspection ended with landlord’s word to correct violations

Daniel Tepfer, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

(MCT)

May 6–NEW HAVEN – The family of a man who died in a fire in an alleged illegal rooming house here claims the city is responsible for the man’s death.

Two people died and three firefighters were injured in the blaze that destroyed a house on West Street in the early morning hours of May 5, 2019. Several residents were forced to jump from the burning building.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Superior Court here, the family of Michael Randall Sr., one of the victims, claims city officials could have prevented his death if they had followed up on housing violations found three months earlier in the building.

“It’s a sad, avoidable case, a sad avoidable death,” said William Bloss, of the Bridgeport law firm Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder, which represents the Randall family.

The fire marshal’s report states that Randall was trapped in his third-floor room by the fire and had no way to escape. Other residents said Randall alerted everyone who was on the third floor to get out, but didn’t make it himself. Resident Corey Reed also died in the fire.

Both men died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries sustained during the fire, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages.

According to the lawsuit, in February 2019, the Fire Department had received a complaint that the West Street building was being used as an illegal rooming house.

The suit states that on Feb. 11, 2019, employees of the city’s Livable City Initiative inspected the building and, beside determining that it was illegally being used as a rooming house, found no smoke detectors or a sprinkler system in violation of city housing codes.

However, other than getting a promise from the landlord to correct the violations, the suit states, city officials did not take any other action and the property was not reinspected.

A request for comment made to the city of New Haven was not immediately returned.

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